Sao Paulo, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 10/26/08
Personal Experiences from Sao Paulo, Brazil
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
8 hours to USA. Direct flights from Fortalezza to Africa. Good within South America, difficult to get to another continent without flying through USA.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Excellent, in my opinion. My apartment is in a prime location, ample space, and has a commute varying from 15 minutes to an hour depending on traffic and rush hour.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Moderately expensive. Depends on what you want. Peanut butter is about US$12 a jar, maple syrup is like gold, Mexican food like taco mix is about US$15.Other stuff is more typical. I usually spend about US$150 at the grocery store, which is about the same I spent in the U.S. Candles are ridiculously priced and for some reason it seems very difficult to find envelopes...but overall you can get anything you can get in the U.S. and pay just about the same or a bit more.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Candles (heavy but coveted), envelopes, grape jam (it's not the same here), brown sugar and cocoa, chocolate chips are hard to come by, more seasoning and sauce mixes to cook with, that"s about it.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Subway, McDonald"s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, plenty of local fast foods in any shopping mall. Jardins is where the best fine dining restaurants are, but you can eat well anywhere in the city. The food here is excellent. The churrascarias (all you can eat meat "rodizio"s) are also awesome.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I use APO and/or pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I pay R$65 every time my maid comes (about $33 bucks) and she does everything. It"s easy and cheap to find someone to live in and cook and clean, and the same to find someone to live out and do the same.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
ATMs are widely available and most places accept credit cards. Check with clubs before you go, because some places (like Pacha) only take Visa for some unfathomable reason. So your Amex or MC will be useless there and there is not ATM on premises in some of these picky spots. However overall you will have no problem. I prefer to use cash but there"s no reason you can"t eat out every night with just a credit card. The Banco 24horas is what you probably will need with your particular ATM card, since many banks here only have machines tied to their particular customers.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Everything is available, haven"t personally gone to any English language services but I know they are available. Catholic, Jewish, non-denominational Xtian, I"m pretty confident you can find whatever you"re looking for.
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Satellite is available with U.S. channels, U.S. newspapers and magazines too. I don"t pay for either so no idea as to cost, but I hear cable is about on par with US prices.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A lot. Sao Paulo isn't as bad as Rio (where despite its ubertourist status, it seems practically no one speaks English), and usually people speak something. But definitely to live here you want to know more than good morning and thank you.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Not too bad. Ramps are common at public places for wheelchair accessibility.
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
Right. But drivers here are basically nuts, so stay alert. Lane marks are suggestions in many places and it's not uncommon for people to cross three lanes of traffic to make a right turn (cutting you off).I"ve been in two fender benders here, neither my fault. Avoid major highways when it rains, as it seems to cause brain freezes in many drivers.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
All are safe and affordable. Taxis are by far the most convenient. Unfortunately the subway is poorly planned and can be a challenge to use, even for someone used to that sort of travel. Buses are the most inconvenient and cheapest. Crowded, smelly, and the most dangerous as well.
3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
The smaller the better, in my opinion, but plenty of people have huge SUVs and don"t seem to mind. Carjackings aren't as common as simple robbery when you are in your car at a stoplight. If you plan on travelling much outside of the city or to farms or the interior, a 4x4 would be a good choice. Definitely not necessary though.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. I pay about US$40 a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
TIM seems to have the best coverage but Claro is cheaper. A word of warning--landlines here treat calls to cell phones like long-distance, so you might call your friend across the street at a local cell phone number and spend almost 50 cents a minute, where a call to the U.S. from your cell phone might just be 20 cents. It's ridiculous but true.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Phone cards that you can buy at any magazine stand (banca) for denominations of R$25 or R$50.You can get great prices per minute. I usually get about 8 hours off of one phone card. Calls to US cell phones eat up minutes faster however.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Yes, and vets come to your house here, which is awesome. Lots of kennel and housing facilities for pets if you go out of town, although most people just have their maid deal with their pets. People in Sao Paulo are mad about their pets.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business standard. Think Manhattan with more cleavage and higher heels for biz attire, ladies. Think same old same old for the boys.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Moderate, some people claim it"s extremely bad but I"ve not had any problems at all. Like any big city, it"s gray and no blue skies.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
In general it is considered a critical threat post for crime. However, I have luckily not been victimized. Be smart, don't go to sketchy areas at night, tint your car windows, plan routes ahead.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Hospital Albert Einstein is where most people go. Health care is expensive but dental is cheap. It's a weird combo. You can spend US$400 for a visit to the doctor for a check-up and then US$30 for your teeth cleaning.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Mostly temperate throughout the year, Sao Paulo gets hot from around November-February, which is also the rainy season. Last year it did get strangely cold for about two months and I was sleeping in layers. Most apartments don"t have heating or air conditioning. Seasons are the opposite than in the USA (winter here is August).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Chapel, Graded, some others but no kids so don"t know details. Most families seem happy with the quality of the education, however.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Don't know, most people use "babas", live in nannies, that are very cheap. You can pay about US$400 a month for 24-7 child care.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
You can be a party animal here if you want to be. You can join a social club and mingle with the upper crust of the Paulistanos. You can go out every night of the week until 5 am if you so desire.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Sao Paulo is great for everyone. It's like Manhattan, only bigger. You can find plenty to do with cultural and entertainment options that are basically limitless. Dating scene is excellent if you put yourself out there. Clubs are fine for "hookups" like in any big city. There is fine dining, excellent concerts, many big name acts come through here from Europe and the USA, and tons of places just a day trip away when you get the itch to leave.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes, as in much of Brazil you will see that skin colour is often related to social station. It seems all religions are welcome, however. Men here have the Latin machismo thing going strong but the women are aggressive and it seems to balance out.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
EAT at one of the awesome restaurants in town. There are tons. SHOP at any type of designer store or junky fun street fair like 25 de Marzo. VISIT outlying areas like EMBU and ITU or take a trip to the beach at GUARUJA. LISTEN to a concert in the fantastic acoustic ambiance of Sala Sao Paulo or see your fave band at Via Funchal or Credicard Hall. WALK around the various neighbourhoods, seeing the instrument shops of Theodoro Sampaio, the boutiques of Oscar Freire, the Japanese district of Liberdade, or the shoe outlets in Moema. DRINK tasty coffees at Santo Grau or imbibe a Guiness at one of the many Irish pubs. Basically this town is like any big city. You can explore museums, antique fairs, malls, parks...you can ice skate in the tiny rink in the basement of the ElDorado shopping mall, go to an anime convention, see a movie, watch a play, go horseback riding, to the botanical gardens. If you get bored here, you"re not trying hard enough.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Wines, food, clothes, precious stones (lots of gemstone mining here), surfing or samba classes, and travel travel travel. See the rainforest, beaches, dunes, farmland. Get up to Bahia and Ceara, go down to Santa Catarina and Rio Grande, and don't forget there are some neighbouring countries with a lot to offer. Don"t miss the rest of the continent if you have time.
9. Can you save money?
Yes. But not if you want to really see the country.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your: